Posted by Dave
When I was a kid, I remember watching my mom crochet different things like blankets and pot holders. Although being a boy kept me from ever wanting to crochet anything on my own, I remember being amazed at how these different spools of yarn could turn into a big blanket or a coaster for the coffee table. The different colors of yarn formed a pattern that held the final product together.
During January, we’ve been in a sermon series about the patterns in our lives. This series has focused on how the patterns in our lives play out on a day-to-day basis. We’ve been studying how the growth and implementation of our faith determines the patterns that are displayed as a result.
This got me thinking about the patterns in my life, and in my own family. This is something that I’m very passionate about, as I believe the lives we live are determined by the patterns we were taught during our upbringing (both good and bad), and by the patterns we learn as we experience life itself (both good and bad). For example, a daughter grows up with a father who doesn’t know how to love her and never shows love to her. She grows up not understanding affection from a man, and then spends the rest of her life seeking this love from other men in an unhealthy way. A son grows up with a mother who criticizes him and never approves of what he does. He grows up feeling like he’s never good enough, then spends the rest of his life trying to gain approval from women in an unhealthy way. And so on. On the flip side, the positive things from a child’s upbringing have a postive impact on their lives.
With enough self-reflection, the patterns in our lives become evident. What about your marriage, divorce, family, or step-family? Can you see any patterns in those? Being sensitive to the patterns in a traditional family are important enough. Some of those patterns are born into a traditional family, there is a genetic pattern that cannot be broken. In a blended family, you’re trying to patch a family together without the genetic bond that is present in a traditional family. Identifying these patterns can make or break the well-being of your family. If you’re in the middle of a season that has you wondering if that “patch” is going to hold up, just give it some time. Patterns aren’t completed or determined overnight. As our pastor said recently, “you hear me preach for 45 minutes and expect to undo 45 years of bad patterns in your life? It doesn’t work that way.”
The challenge then becomes taking the time to look objectively at the patterns in your life. Do I have enough time or energy to change what I see? Is it worth the effort that it will take? It’s just like exercise. You have to start somewhere. There is no quick fix to fixing the negative patterns in your life or family. There’s no pill to take. There’s no 30 day diet that will give you that supermodel body. It will take work, and lots of hard work, to turn the tide. What’s the alternative? Pretending that everything is fine, and that you don’t need to examine the fine print. If that is your choice, not only do you miss out on the opportunity to change the negative patterns in your life, you also miss out on seeing the positive patterns in your life. Don’t let the fear of seeing things you don’t want to see keep you from seeing things that you need to see.
As you look at the patterns in your family, try to steer away from blanket statements, generalities, or decisions instead of taking each individual person into account. This doesn’t mean that one individual is more important than any other in the family. The pattern of the family is set by the individual patterns. To change the patterns in the family, it begins with transforming individual patterns. It would be much easier to make one decision or change of direction that would affect everyone the same. Because we’re created with individual temperaments, personalities and needs, it just isn’t that simple. One person’s positive or negative patterns can affect the entire family. Take a family of four with an alcoholic father who is abusive when he drinks. The patterns of the other three people in the family will be affected. Mom will either become codependent (where one person supports or enables another person’s addictions or irresponsibility) or she will reject Dad’s behavior, causing major conflict between the two of them. Whichever direction she goes will determine the patterns of the lives of the children. This is exactly why so many problems in families are generational, because these patterns show up very early in our lives. If they aren’t confronted and dealt with, you have teenagers and then young adults repeating the same mistakes. Then they carry those patterns into their relationships and marriages, producing children who will carry them as well. And on and on it goes. Dad’s alcoholism and how it manifests itself in the family has determined the pattern, and it has affected everyone. Mom can stand up and say “we’re going to change the pattern of this family” and try to stem the tide of how everything is affecting the children, but until Dad makes a choice to change, the pattern will always be there. This is why you have to look at each individual in the family when looking at the patterns of the whole family.
When Hope and I decided to get married, we had an expectation that it would take plenty of time for our family to be “crocheted” together. In a step/blended family situation, the tendency is to try to put it all together overnight. That puts so much pressure on the individuals in the family that no patterns have time to emerge. Everyone is simply reacting or trying to keep the peace. Our approach hasn’t changed from Day 1, and now we’re starting to experience the fruit from this patience. This doesn’t mean that we’re without conflict and that everything is smooth sailing. This doesn’t mean that we won’t have tough days ahead, especially as our three sons transform into those monsters known as teenagers. What it means is that instead of reacting only to situations and circumstances, you go further into what is happening. Is there a deeper pattern as to why this happened? Does that pattern need to be changed for the family to be healthy? You have to allow the tapestry to be woven slowly as everyone adjusts.
Take a look at your life and your family today and see if you can identify the patterns. Look for the good ones and the bad ones. Look for the ones that you want to change. It might be as simple as changing your diet & exercise plan, or choosing to stop watching or listening to things that are preventing growth in your life. Or it could be as big as making the choice to not be an addict anymore. If your marriage is going well, or going not-so-well, know that it isn’t circumstances that have caused that. It’s the patterns. Sew the good ones into the pattern of your life and tear out the bad ones. Then wait for the change to happen.